What to do when ICE comes knocking

Jeff vonKaenel

Unlike my great-grandfather, who according to family folklore jumped ship without papers to come to America, I was delivered to this country by my American mother. So, unlike many, I have not had to worry about deportation or arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

While I have certainly been following the immigration debate, coming to the obvious conclusion that we need reform and a pathway to citizenship, my personal focus has been on the politics of the immigration issue rather than the effect it has on individuals.

I hadn’t imagined what it would be like to be in an auto accident and suddenly face deportation. I had not thought what it would be like to walk down the street knowing that an ICE agent, for no apparent reason, could ask for identification and then I could end up in detention. I had not thought how, in the middle of the night, while my family and I were sleeping, there could be a knock at the door and ICE could come and take me away. Or that there could be a raid where my co-workers were swept up. I had not thought about how easy it would be to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Last week, our N&R Publications division had an incredible brainstorming session with Ann Kanter and other immigration attorneys, an ACLU board member, Councilman Eric Guerra’s office, The California Endowment, Communities for a New California, Hmong Innovating Politics, Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services and the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, to discuss the feasibility of creating a 16-page mini-newspaper in English and Spanish that would explain, by telling stories, what a person should do if ICE comes knocking.

In the process of planning this publication, we learned a lot. For instance, ICE cannot come into your house without a warrant signed by a judge. But according to an investigation by the LA Times, ICE officials rarely have such a warrant and frequently pretend that they do. So if you ask to see the warrant, it’s hard to tell if it’s the real thing. The suggestion is: Don’t open the door, don’t ask for a warrant. ICE might break down your door, but they are less likely to do that without a valid warrant.

Or if there is a raid at a workplace, there are ways that an employer can help prevent ICE from rounding up workers indiscriminately. And for families with undocumented members, make sure that each person has a plan for what to do if a family member does not come home.

At the end of our storyboard session we had developed a plan for stories and suggestions about how to respond to ICE. But how to get this information out to those who need it?

We’d like to produce 60,000 copies of a publication to be distributed throughout the region, as well as 70,000 copies inserted into the SN&R, and six different videos in English and Spanish, to be made available online. Communities for a New California Executive Director Pablo Rodriguez offered to help distribute the publication when his organization does door-to-door canvassing in minority neighborhoods.

We are estimating that this project will cost $43,000. If you are interested in contributing to this social justice project, please contact Joe Engle at joee@newsreview.com or make a contribution at https://connect.clickandpledge.com/Organization/IndependentJournalismFund/—write “Immigration Pub” in the project field. We hope that this project can become the model for regional pieces nationwide.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.